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A.D.: Beyond the Bible, from Burnett and wife Downey, begins in the days after Jesus’ betrayal and death. With NBC partnering to bring the follow-up to broadcast, the network is hoping to duplicate the success History Channel had with The Bible. The 10-parter debuted to 13.1 million viewers March 3, before wrapping up Easter Sunday with 11.7 million.
“Last year when Mark Burnett was launching The Bible on cable, I told him, without hesitation, that if he wanted to tell more of the story, we’d love to do it at NBC,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a release announcing the news Tuesday. “We are firmly in the ‘event’ business and nothing has more event potential than A.D. as it continues immediately after the The Bible ended. The heft of a broadcast network, combined with the promotional arms of NBCUniversal and Comcast, will push this miniseries to a mass audience. We value our relationship with Mark and Roma and know that no one could bring this story to life better than them.”
A.D. hails from LightWorkers Media a nd will be exec produced by Burnett, Downey and Richard Bedser. Two-time BAFTA nominee Simon Block (The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall) will pen the script. Casting will begin immediately and a director will be announced at a later date. Brian Edwards, COO of Burnett’s One Three Media, brokered the deal with NBC.
“You might think the story is over at the Crucifixion, but as most of the world knows, that was only the beginning,” said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. “Everyone’s lives were completely altered in an instant and the immediate aftermath of Christ’s death had an impact on his disciples, his mother Mary, and key political and religious leaders of the time. In the first episode alone you see the last moments of the Crucifixion, Judas taking his own life after betraying Christ, Peter denying Jesus three times, and then the miracle of the Resurrection. We feel so fortunate to be in the hands of Mark and Roma, who have proven that the greatest story ever told is still just that.”
The Bible follow-up comes just days after CBS picked up Burnett and Downey’s mini The Dovekeepers, which centers on the siege of Masada. Reality guru Burnett (whose Survivor was just renewed for two additional cycles) is also teaming with NBC for event entry Plymouth, which follows the challenges and drama of the Pilgrims’ journey across the Atlantic and the difficulties of settling in a new country. Burnett, via his One Three Media, will executive produce alongside Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo of Little Engine. Oscar and Emmy winner Walon Green (NYPD Blue, The Hellstrom Chronicle) will pen the project.
A.D. also marks NBC’s first longform programming initiative under former ABC exec Quinn Taylor.
Religion-based programming, both on the scripted and unscripted side, is attracting viewers — especially on cable. The success of The Bible has proven that there is a demand for such faith-based series. “We knew the subject area [was of interest to] our viewers and beyond,” History executive vp development and programming Dirk Hoogstra told THR earlier this year.
The miniseries push comes as both broadcast and cable networks are looking to lure A-list actors, prestige and eyeballs in an era dominated by DVRs.
Since its release on DVD and Blu-ray in April, The Bible has become the top-selling miniseries of all time in its first week of release, shipping 525,000 units. Burnett and Downey are also working on feature film Son of God, set for release via Fox in February.
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